In HBO’s new version of the depression era drama, Kate Winslet plays Mildred Pierce, the newly single mother of two daughters. When her marriage combusts, Mildred finds herself without a way of supporting her kids, and in 1931, prospects are grim. The employment agency employee takes a look at her work experience and tells her: “You haven’t got a chance”. This was the days before child support, when Deadbeat Dad was pretty much the expectation.
Mildred pounds the pavement, chasing classified ads, attending demeaning job interviews, struggling to balance dirty dishes at a harrowing waitressing job. And it’s impossible not to think about the sadly similar state our country finds itself in today, with who knows how many moms feeling the same strains and pressures as Mildred Pierce.
But Mildred is also a story about a mother and daughter. As Mildred struggles through the menial labor of her day to day life, her daughter Veda speaks like she thinks she’s in a Jane Austen novel, talking about Chopin and asking her father his opinion on the current economic conditions. Mildred goes through pains to conceal her hardship, not just to protect her daughter from anxiety, but to maintain her reputation with Veda. “She has something in her that I thought I had and now find I don’t. Pride, or nobility, or whatever that is.”
Veda’s sense of entitlement dovetails with Mildred’s anxiety about her own station in life in this classic drama of motherhood.
Photo credit: Andrew Schwartz/HBO